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Individual Differences in Social Comparison

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Part of the The Springer Series in Social Clinical Psychology book series (SSSC)

Abstract

The study of individual differences in social comparison is a fairly recent phenomenon, created largely by the downward comparison theory prediction (Wills, 1981, 1991) that low self-esteem individuals will choose to make downward comparisons as a self-enhancement strategy. Prior to that theory (and to a large extent afterward), social comparison researchers have been more concerned with situational influences on comparison behavior than with the influence of individual differences. Opposed to downward comparison theory is Beck’s (1967, 1976) cognitive model of depression, which argues that depressives have a “systematic bias against the self” that is reflected in and maintained by their upward comparisons. A later self- worth contingency model of depression (Kuiper & Olinger, 1986; Swallow & Kuiper, 1988) argued that the self-worth of depressives is contingent on positive performance evaluations and the resulting approval of others. Thus, depressives are particularly sensitive to social comparison. Perceived threats to self-worth activate dysfunctional social comparison processes, such as failing to discount the superior performance of others advantaged on related attributes (see Chapters 2 and 3, this volume), and hence make an inordinate number of unfavorable comparisons leading to negative self-evaluations. In short, the cognitive depression models argue that dysphoric individuals should engage in dysfunctional social comparison, particularly when threatened. Downward comparison theory, on the other hand, predicts that low self-esteem or dysphoric individuals should try to make (functional) downward comparisons for self-enhancement, particularly when threatened. These are the most articulated theoretical positions and account for most of the research, but several recent studies have investigated individual difference variables other than self-esteem and dysphoria, and I think that these attempts may ultimately be quite fruitful.

Keywords

  • Positive Affect
  • Social Comparison
  • Negative Mood
  • Social Psychology Bulletin
  • Depressed Participant

These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Wheeler, L. (2000). Individual Differences in Social Comparison. In: Suls, J., Wheeler, L. (eds) Handbook of Social Comparison. The Springer Series in Social Clinical Psychology. Springer, Boston, MA. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4615-4237-7_8

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4615-4237-7_8

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